13 great iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch apps for event planners

I’ve had my 3G iPad for two weeks, and it’s already changing how I work. And not just when I’m away from the Mac Mini and MacBook Pro in my office. Here are my current favorite iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch apps for an event professional, most of which are free. (Unless specifically mentioned, you can assume that all apps work on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.)

simplenote_largeSimplenote, free, premium version $8.99/year
I purchased Pages for the iPad but haven’t used it yet. I rarely need elaborately formatted documents. What I do need is a simple text editor that imports ASCII, RTF or HTML files, backs up my writing safely, and synchronizes it across my mobile and office computers.

That’s exactly what Simplenote, combined with copies of Notational Velocity (free, open source) on my office computers do. Anything I write in Simplenote on my iPad gets saved and backed up to the Internet cloud (on a free account at Simplenote). When I open Notational Velocity on an office computer, my notes there are synchronized. Similarly, any notes updated on my office machines are synchronized to the iPad when I open Simplenote. All communications are encrypted.

The premium version of Simplenote removes small ads that appear at the top of the Notes column, and adds automatic version backups (like Dropbox, see below) and a few other features. The ads aren’t intrusive, so I’m staying with the free version for now.

Both Simplenote and Notational Velocity offer blazing fast search and support thousands of notes.

For just pure writing, safely backed up and synchronized, you can’t beat the combination of these two free apps!

Dropbox_IconDropbox & Box.net, both free
What if you want to access other kinds of documents on your iPad? I’ve been using the wonderful Dropbox and handy Box.net for some time on my office Macs, and now there are iPad and iPhone clients for both.

Dropbox works very much like the Simplenote premium service described above when installed on Macintosh computers. All contents of the Dropbox folder on a computer (Macintosh, Linux or Windows) running Dropbox are automatically synced when new files or changes are detected. You don’t have to be continually online; all changes sync once your computer has an Internet connection again. You can create shared folders, allowing several people to collaborate on a set of files.

The free service gives you 2GB of space on Dropbox’s servers, which is plenty for me. A nice feature is that the server stores the last 30 days of versions of your files, so you can revert to an older version if needed. If you want more storage, you can pay $9.99/month for 50GB or $19.99 for 100GB, with these paid plans including the storage of unlimited older versions of your files.

The Dropbox app allows you to access your Dropbox files on your iPhone or iPad. Image, music, movie, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF, HTML, and text file formats can be displayed by the app. <https://www.dropbox.com/help/80> Unlike the desktop versions of Dropbox, files are not stored automatically on a mobile device but are uploaded on request by marking them as Favorites.

Dropbox also includes a web interface to your files, so you can access them (and older versions) from any Internet connected computer.

While I was writing my book, I stored all my important files on Dropbox. It gave me great peace of mind to know that up-to-date versions of my book’s many files were being automatically saved remotely and on all my office computers.

box.net_iconBox.net supplies similar functionality to Dropbox, except that it doesn’t have a desktop client. The free Box.net service is limited to 1GB of web-storage and a rather paltry 25MB file size limit. Paid plans are available, but they are less generous than Dropbox’s. Since Dropbox added file sharing features I don’t use Box.net much, but it offers a simple way to provide sharing of files with others and another 1GB of free web-storage is not to be sniffed at. The mobile app makes it easy to share a file via email.

square-logoSquare, app free, card transaction fees extra
Square is a neat inexpensive way to easily accept card payments for small amounts (up to $60). On the iPad you can create lists of the items or services you sell. It took me just a few minutes to set up Square for selling my book three ways—paperback, ebook, or combo—at a presentation or trade show. When you sign up for the service, Square sends you a free card reader that plugs into your iPad or iPhone. You can also process cash sales and send receipts to a buyer’s email address. Square provides a complete downloadable record of all your sales.

Square charges reasonable card fees: 2.75% + $0.15 for a swiped card and 3.5% + $0.15 for a keyed-in card. These are the only charges for the service; there’s no monthly fee or minimum and no contract or merchant account required. This would be a great app for selling promotional items at events.

goodreader-logoGoodReader, $0.99
GoodReader is an inexpensive app that allows you to transfer large files to your mobile device, by Wifi or from an Internet cloud server, and reliably view them. Like the Dropbox viewer, it supports a wide range of file formats. Unlike other mobile file readers, GoodReader has no problem rapidly opening, displaying, and responsively scrolling through the 350-page ebook version of Conferences That Work and other large files I’ve thrown at it.

instapaper_logo1Instapaper, free, Pro version $4.99
Overwhelmed by cool articles on the web that you don’t have time to read right now, but don’t want to forget? Instapaper can help! Just set up a free account, add Instapaper’s <Read Later> bookmarklet to your browser’s toolbar and click it to save any webpage for later viewing. While you’re waiting for your car to be fixed, open the Instapaper app and browse an optimized text-version (nice) or the full graphics version of the pages you’ve saved.

The Pro version is optimized for the iPad, and adds some features I don’t need, but I’ve had no problem running the free iPhone version on my iPad.

TweetDeck_LogoTweetDeck, free
Until Twitter comes out with a free version of Tweetie (at which point I’ll reconsider) my favorite Twitter client for the iPad is Tweetdeck. It makes full use of the iPad screen, showing two columns in portrait and three in landscape mode. The URL shortener works reliably, though I miss the tweetshrink button available in the desktop version that’s useful when a tweet is just a few characters too long.

AdobeIdeasLogoAdobe Ideas, free, iPad only
Need to make a rough sketch? Give Adobe Ideas a whirl. What you draw is vector-based, so you can enlarge or reduce drawing elements with getting an attack of the jaggies. It’s easy to zoom the canvas too, so you can make it larger if your drawing gets more complicated than you originally expected. Separate drawing and photo layers allow you to annotate photos, which could be useful for adding notes to photos taken during a site visit. And a 50-level undo allows me to erase the frequent mistakes I make when I try and draw anything.

wifitrakWifiTrak, literally priceless!
On researching this useful app, which I purchased last year, I discovered that Apple, in March with very little explanation, removed all wifi access-point finders from the App store! (Luckily it is still available on my touch.) This is a shame, because the Wifi networks discovered by my iPod touch’s and iPad’s settings are only a subset of what these devices can actually connect to. WifiTrak is able to find useable access points that my iPod Touch otherwise does not see. I hope that this app will be restored to the Apps store so that you can take advantage of its superior performance.

beath_the_traffic_appBeat the Traffic (iPhone & Touch), Beat the Traffic HD (iPad), both free {No longer available as of September 2017}
What event professional doesn’t want to avoid backed up traffic while driving in town? This excellent app provides live traffic maps, showing traffic speeds and accidents in most major U.S. cities. It even includes live traffic cam feeds in places! A touch can only use the app if it’s connected by Wifi; not very practical while driving. I don’t recommend Beat the Traffic for solo use while driving, but a passenger can help you avoid traffic snarls, and the twenty minute future traffic prediction available on the iPad version can be quite helpful.

evernote_logoEvernote, free, Premium service $5/month or $45/year
Evernote is my go-to application for capturing information I want to be able to find in the future. I use it mainly for web pages, but it will file text notes, pdfs, spreadsheets, photos, voice memos, and screenshots too. Evernote clients are available for most mobile and desktop operating systems. Everything captured is made searchable—you can add your own tags if you like—and can be stored in specific categories (“notebooks”) if desired. The iPad version takes full advantage of the large screen. Your notes are stored on Evernote’s servers and locally and are synced to your mobile device and to Mac OS X and Windows computers running an Evernote client.

You can upload up to 40MB per month (with a maximum single note size of 25MB) using the free Evernote service, and this has always been adequate for me. The Premium service raises the upload maximum to 500MB/month with a maximum single note size of 50MB, and can store any kind of file.

iTalk logoiTalk Lite, free, not officially supported for the iPad but seems to work just fine
Want to record a conversation, a speech, or the amazing jazz quartet that’s playing at your event?
This useful app turns your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into a high-quality recording device that’s very easy to use. There’s a iTalk Premium version for $1.99 that omits small ads and doesn’t limit the size of a recording that can be emailed. The app includes iTalk Sync, which allows you to transfer your recordings to a desktop computer via Wifi. If you have a touch, you’ll need a microphone and I highly recommend the $25 Belkin TuneTalk Stereo which plugs in to the dock connector and provides amazing quality for such an inexpensive device.

WeatherBugLogoWeatherBug Elite for iPad, free
This is currently the best weather app I’ve found for the iPad. Everything is available from one well-designed screen: weather current conditions, forecasts, animated radar, temperature, windspeed and pressure maps, live weather cam images and more. There’s an iPhone/touch version that I haven’t tried. I downloaded the big kahuna app in this category, The Weather Channel, which looks gorgeous but crashes repeatedly on my iPad and doesn’t display animated maps correctly.

There they are, my favorite 13 apps for event professionals. Which apps do you like? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to disagree, suggest alternatives, and correct any errors that may have crept into this review!